Not Quite What We Had In Mind

jetsonsThere’s an entire generation who grew up watching programs like Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, The Jetsons, the original Star Trek and a slew of really bad sci-fi movies about giant bug aliens and pod people who captured the imagination with flying cars, moving sidewalks, ‘smart’ houses that provided perfect climate control, lights that automatically turned on/off based on motion or voice activation, videophones, electronic doors that whooshed open and closed without needing doorknobs or hands to work them, surgery without cutting or scars, full body medical scans that didn‘t involve needles or dyes or coffin-like machines, beaming ourselves around the world (without jet lag) and we thought ‘wouldn’t that be nice’

Well, not so much the giant bugs or pod people, but the technology looked shiny and bright and fun and we looked forward to it all like a five-year-old anticipating Santa Claus on Christmas Eve.

A lot of the sci-fi fiction from the fifties and sixties has become reality.  But as your grandparents used to say: Be careful what you wish for.  For all the tech advances in the past 40 or so years, the execution doesn’t always meet or exceed the imagining.

Moving sidewalks are limited to use in airports and truthfully, I can walk faster than they move.  They are merely a long treadmill with no variation in speed or incline so no cardio benefit there.  More useful to me would be one you could use for your carry-on luggage that covered the entire terminal from check-in to boarding so I wouldn’t have the burden of lugging it around for half a mile.

While we don’t yet have flying cars, a number of companies are developing driverless cars.  The rationale being touted is safety, but perhaps they’re being designed for people who are too stupid or lazy to learn how to drive — in one lane without tailgating, cutting other cars off, with lights on when it’s dark and obeying traffic signs/lights. Then there’s speed.  Will driverless cars be able to exceed the speed limits? There would be no more drag racing so enjoy Fast and Furious now before it becomes nostalgia.  The future may be filled with muscle cars that have no muscles.  Vroom.  Vroom.  Putt.  Putt.

Tech does promote laziness.  There was a time when you had to get up from your couch/chair to change the TV channel or adjust the sound.  Now people just lay around wearing out their thumbs on remote controls.  And while life-size maid robots aren’t currently available to do housework (how tedious, how boring, how unfun) there is the Roomba.

Careful what you wish for.  Tech has a price: laziness.  One family recently paid the price of laziness using their robot vacuüm.  A messy price.  A stinky price. They programmed it to vacuüm while they were sleeping. T hey also had a dog.  But they apparently had no doggie door.  The dog had an accident.  The Roomba didn’t care what the mess was, it just kept going and going and going…Yes, it spread the mess around the entire house because it wasn’t something that could be sucked up, merely distributed around the house, grinding it into the carpeting.  Roomba has no brain function.  The same thing could happen if there was a child who got sick in the middle of the night.  Again, not a mess you want to wake up to in the morning when it’s been distributed — and dried in a thin crust.

Technology isn’t for everyone or for every lifestyle.  You have to consider pets and children when you eye that shiny new tech toy.  People and pets are messy.  They get sick.  They’ll track in mud.  Electric cars may sound great, but are there enough charging stations to get you from Point A to Point B, and don’t forget to add in recharging time for that road trip.  As for doors that open/close/lock without knobs or keys, in a power outage will your house remain unlocked or keep you locked out of it?  These are valid considerations for space age living.

Despite all our gleeful anticipation, the reality has fallen of expectations.  Life isn’t quite as effortless as The Jetsons.  Perhaps it’s because we’re Human – version 1.0.  While laser surgery and transplants are common, as humans we still cannot get an OS/processor upgrade to make us smarter, faster, more durable, nor can we be rebooted.  It’s all cosmetics, the system degrades over the years, parts cannot always be replaced or refurbished and sometimes there are backward compatibility issues making tech difficult to use.

While there was the occasional anomaly in The Outer Limits or the Twilight Zone, we seem to have wound up with tribble troubles, cute when we first saw them and then: monthly updates, costly upgrades, viruses, exploding phones, phones with terrible audio but great graphics, videophones that were poorly executed, touch screens that aren’t sensitive enough or too sensitive (sh*t that wasn’t what I wanted to do), hard drive crashes at the most inopportune times, carpal tunnel syndrome, GPS directions that lead you to the wrong destination, degenerating joints from all that texting, sensors that shut off appliances and can’t be reset without replacing the sensor or the motherboard, toilets that are apparently only calibrated for those weighing 300 lbs. to sense when to automatically flush, touchless faucets and paper towel dispensers that leave you waving your hands for five minutes before they work…

Sigh.  I recently went to the doctor whose practice moved into a brand new building with brand new, state-of-the-art equipment such as a digital blood pressure machine.  Once my arm was squeezed to the bursting point, I watched the numbers on the readout go up then down, then up again, then down again, then up…It couldn’t get a reading.  Here, try the other arm and suddenly the machine worked… Apparently I’m not even Human v1.0, but some kind of carbon-based human hybrid.

The Jetson family was apparently Human v2.0, though George may have been either a malfunctioning v2.0 — or a v1.0 time traveler.  But Jane — Jane was definitely a v2.0.

 

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